Pranayama (rhythmic control of the breath).
Prana means breath, respiration, life, vitality, wind, energy or strength. It connotes the soul as opposed to the body. Ayama means length, extension, stretching or restraint. Pranayama that connotes extension of breath and its control. This control is overall the functions of breathing, namely:
- Inhalation or inspiration, which is termed puraka (filling up)
- Exhalation or expiration, which is termed rechaka (emptying the lungs
- Retention or holding the breath, a state there is no inhalation no exhalation which is termed kumbaka.
A Yogi’s life is not measured by the number of days he lives but by the number of his breaths. So he follows the rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing. These rhythmic patterns strengthen respiratory system, soothe nervous system and reduce craving.
Can pranayama help for stress and anxiety?
When we are in stress, a hormone called epinephrine has released into our blood stream causing a rise in our blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate. As sugar and fat is release into our blood stream, blood is diverted from our skin and digestive system to our muscles and brain. Our senses are heightened! This physiological process is known as the “flight or fight” response.
Everyone experiences some stress in his or her life, however what makes stress a killer is when it is ongoing and our system does not get a break from it.
The most effective ways of dealing with stress is the Relaxation response and it is our body’s own natural way of bringing our system back into balance. The relaxation response can be activated voluntarily. And yogic breathing practices, pranayama are easy to do yet very effective at reducing stress, activating the relaxation response and quieting our mind.
- It improves coherence between the two cerebral hemispheres signifying synchronization of logical and intuitive function. It increases alertness along with relaxation.
- The Pranayama shows a reduction in sympathetic activity which is the basis of its use in stress management.
- Pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorder.
- Pranayama improves the autonomic functions.